Monday, 31 January 2011

Climbing the rocky road of journalism.

Soo, now I have finished my stint at Top Sante, I am thinking what next? What is next around the corner? 

The good, but kinda sad, thing is that now I am getting more experienced in the field I am being offered internships frequently more. The only downer is I simply cannot afford to several internships after one another. Consquently meaning I have to turn down at least one placement. 

Ahh and this is where the gap lies, between upaid work placements-and the paid. As a graduate, I have plenty of free time- yet little money. A paid internship would solve all my troubles and believe me they do exist. However, they are few and far between, the competition I imagine enormous, gigantic. Soo for now, my dear blogger friends I will be climbing the ladder the hard way. Living the student life a little longer, evading Top Shop a little longer-  however enjoying some extra curricular perks along the way :)

These being, freebies, networking events, plus having the experience that you simply would not get if you stayed in your hometown. 

For instance, whilst at Top Sante I got to attend not one, but two networking events. First off, was the first Glow! Awards which Top Sante hosted at The Century Club, Shaftesbury avenue. 

A plush venue, a gorgeous (and of course healthy) breakfast of Museli, fruit, crossiants, fresh organge juice, champagne (daarling) and a room full of beauty & lifestyle PR's- what more could an aspiring journo ask for? 

It was a great way to meet and greet others in the field, even though they were based in  a different field that I ideally want to go into, it is still really good to make contacts and get yourself out there. A lovely young woman gave me her business card, which is, note to self, the next thing on my list to tick off. (*Must get business cards*). 

After the awards, a lovely colleague of mine gave me one of the goodie bags from the event, as a thank- you for helping out. (Packing sixty odd of those bags and carrying huuge boxes has it's rewards ;)

Needless to say, the Liz Earle cleanser pack  soon was snapped up by my label- loving grandma and the healthy food treats quickly snuffled from sight. 

As well as the freebies, you get to go cool places like the glamourous covent garden hotel, where I attended the Warburtons press event. (more offical info on that later).  Networking with other journalists, PRs and editors I really think that meeting people in the flesh is the way forward. 

A friendly face, a pleasant conversation may stand out against the bog- standard "work experience" email editorial assisants receive every day. The importance of "it's who you know, not what you know" is really starting to play true. Whilst I think a university education is important for aspiring journo's, journalism is a very sociable career where connections matter and employing a face that you remember as reliable and enthusiatic is easier than employing an unknown one. 

The debate between education and experience is a biggun. But I must say, I am leaning towards the side of experience. I have learnt so much from my internships, from the way magazines work day- to day to even how to make a good coffee (I hope!) It is more pratical know- how, experiencing the daily routine of a magazine environment, the fast pace, the stress of impending deadlines, the laughs, the freebies and most of all the people you meet- that a course simply cannot teach. 

Granted, I don't have the skills of short- hand, media law and snubbing. And maybe this will hinder me in the future, but for now i'm going with the internships. I have thought about post- grad courses, but for the time being this isn't an option, (money issue again). A short NTCJ course to give me these skills, a fashion MA in journalism at LCF to specialise in my interests, a general masters in magazine journalism...are all options. 

A comment that has been recently made is that Journalism is now only a career choice of the middle classes and the rich. I am certainly fortunate that my parents can afford to support me at home, whilst I jump to one unpaid internship after another. For others, this would simply not be an option. The Press Gazette, among many others have featured interesting articles and advice on the subject. 

The editor Dominic Ponsford notes that in the past this was not (as much) of an issue but due to the rise of the un-paid internship and the fact that people will work unpaid for months on end, means that employers are less likely to want pay someone for their time, if they can get someone to do the same job for virtually nothing. 

"The really sad thing for me is that the ability to work for free for months on end seems to have become a prerequisite to getting a foot on the ladder at many national newspapers and high profile glossy magazines.

Interestingly enough, he comments that the academic malarky of journalism MA's are hardly used in the newsroom, whereas the practical skills of journalism taught by short courses NTCJ are not only more cost- effective (courses can cost as little as £900, in comparsion to whopper MA charges of up to £7,000!) but are essentially more useful in your career. 

"Many prospective journalists seem to think they need to take an expensive post-graduate academic qualification....But practical journalism is not an academic skill – and much of the stuff MA students will learn will be useless in the newsroom

Soo there you have it, my little comments on the journey to becoming a journo. Would love to hear your thoughts, are you currently studying for an MA in journalism? Or perhaps a degree? What do you think of the unpaid internship, exploitation or a necessary route to success? Let me know. Also have a gander at the Press Gazette's article on why they think  journalism is becoming a middle class profession here:   

Devil Wears Prada- the internship you would dread, but secretly love at the same time.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tried and Tested: Relax day at Champneys, Forest Mere.


Surrounded by luscious forests and nestled in open grounds, if you want to get away, Champneys, Forest Mere is the place to escape to. Hidden in the heart of Hampshire, just off the busy Hindhead motorway in Liphook, visitors are transported to a peaceful idyll, where no traffic or signs of the hectic outside world can be heard!

The Day

No stranger to celebrities, the Champneys resort is impressive to say the least. Boasting a twenty five metre pool, the latest spa and gym facilities (not to mention luxurious treatment rooms), Forest Mere is a secluded hidden hideaway- perfect for some much needed peace and quiet. 

We were greeted by friendly staff, who promptly gave us individual packs containing schedules of the day and offered us a tour of the facilities- handy so we knew where we were going! 

To start, we went for a splash in the pool and then tried a spell in the whirl pool, sauna and steam rooms. After the first hour at Forest Mere, I already felt myself beginning to unwind and could easily get used to the luxury! 

Unfortunately, although treatments were available, they incurred an extra charge. However, various fitness classes were included in our package and so once we’d dried off, we went to our first class of the day: chi ball yoga. 

This was one of our favourite classes; it was a great relaxing exercise to ease us into the strenuous activities that were to follow. A mix of tai chi, Pilates and yoga, chi ball yoga is a holistic approach to exercise that incorporates ancient elements of Chinese medicine, the ying and yang movements of tai chi and colour therapy. 

At the beginning of the session, we were asked to pick out a coloured, scented ball that we felt most attracted to. It was later revealed that our choices represented our personalities, and as I was immediately drawn to the purple ball, I am apparently a soft, sensitive person with paranormal abilities (creepy, but true). My mum (who chose a red ball), was told that her personality is passionate with high energy and my sister (who went with green) is said to be a lover of the earth and home-maker- both fairly strong matches!

We then used the soft Swiss-like balls to stretch out our fingertips, spreading them across the squishy surface. This improved our balance and also helped us practise ying (soft, female) and yang (strong, masculine) movements. The class mostly consisted of slow movements, but you could feel your body being tested, as most movements were stretching or balancing actions designed to increase flexibility. 

At one point, we were told to lie on yoga mats with the ball resting beneath our backs and to quickly roll from side to side, like a child rolling down a hill. It may sound a bit strange, but the movement actually acted as a tension-releasing massage for our spines!

At the end of the session, we did a little meditation- my favourite part of yoga. The instructor told us to close our eyes and to pay attention to the colours we saw in the darkness. She even put blankets over us so we didn’t get cold, which can sometimes happen during meditation. Completely relaxed, I could have happily dozed off right there and then.

Relaxing and invigorating, chi ball yoga focuses on the individual’s sense of well being. The blend of deep relaxation mixed with flexibility and balance-testing yoga is a winning combination that strives to develop your natural state of contentment and happiness, whilst the exercise element helps you to keep fit too! I would definitely do this again.

Next up was the slightly more strenuous fitness class Ballet Workout. A hit across gyms nationwide, the class featured moves from the popular New York Ballet workout. A word of warning to newcomers; this is not for the fainthearted! 

As a former ballerina (yes, I got up to grade 1; no, I did not subject myself to the pain of pointes), I thought I would really enjoy this class. However, rather than the emphasis being on routines and the dance aspect of ballet, it focused on the strength and flexibility that ballet requires- after all, it is called a workout! 

We did a lot of stretching before we began to make sure our bodies were fully limbered up for the class, and then moved onto plies and demi plies from first position. Still pointing our toes, we then moved over to the barre to practise lifts with our arms in third position (overhead) or on the barre for support. As well as balancing, we practised elevated pull-ups in a sequence.
Balancing is a key part of ballet, and the instructor encouraged us to lift our legs high as we could during many moves. Whilst the movements may not have been fast, we found out that it is holding the position (and yourself upright) that wears you out! 

Next up was the harsh New York City Ballet floor move, which embarrassingly I could not do, having got cramp in my foot! The instructor did say it was a tricky one...but perhaps it was because I was pining for my lunch!

All in all, we progressed through some great cardiovascular exercises that worked to strengthen the backs of our legs and firm our behinds. In the end, I found that I did enjoy the ballet elements of the class (even if they were hard work)!

I needed sustenance, so after the class finished, we trotted (in our luxurious white gowns and slippers) to the spa restaurant. What welcomed us was an array of healthy choices (no crisps and choccie to be found here), including salad, cold meats, fresh bread and fresh pasta served in front of your eyes and customized to your taste. When it came to dessert, the options were yogurt or fresh, juicy fruit (completing a perfect, healthy meal of the highest standard!)

Whilst water is available throughout the day, if you get peckish later on (which we did) snacks are not included in the package. We caved in, but a lovely hot chocolate and a cheeky chocolate cake was the perfect way to round off the day. 

Before we gave in to chocolate indulgence, we were back on the fitness wagon right after lunch and headed to the dance studio for another favourite of the day: dance class.
Both my sister and I love to dance, and so does my mum (even if she isn’t doing the right moves half the time). The brilliant teacher, Rebecca, put us through our paces and there was no need to worry if you weren’t the best dancer, as Rebecca did not focus on ability, but dancing with energy and most of all, having fun! 

We practised a high energy routine to the cheesy Michael Jackson tune, P.Y.T and were soon spinning and strutting around the studio, leaving the whole class exhausted and in stitches!
After all that jumping around, we were in desperate need of freshening up, so we popped back to the pool. I was up for a lounge in the whirl pool, maybe a followed by a hot soak in the sauna...but it was not to be.

There was an aqua class about to start, so we (now a family of fitness freaks) joined in. It was a water-based class with a difference and was dubbed Aqua Circuit. A high-powered circuit of activities in the water, it pushed us to our limits and involved “cycling” with floats, ‘jumping’ jacks, punching through the water and sprinting the width of the pool- it was pretty hard going! 

We had tons of fun and experienced a fairly exhausting workout at the same time. It was a great end to our action-packed day at Champneys.

Overall, it was a brilliant experience, and to quote my mum: “One of the best days of her life”. It was a fabulous day of luxury and fitness galore- we could have quite happily stayed the night and kept those gowns and slippers on a little while longer! 

While it was good value for money, we only wished the ‘relax day’ had a mini facial or manicure thrown in, as it would have been nice to be treated without having to pay extra. There are even some fitness classes you still have to pay for, so do watch out for those hidden extras on the day. 

Despite this, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I would recommend Champneys to anyone who’s got who’s got a birthday coming up and fancies a touch of pampering. 

Check out Champneys resort spas near you on Wahanda and remember you can use Wahanda vouchers at selected locations. So what are you waiting for? It’s time for some “you” time!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Skipping breakfast leads to heart disease, study shows.

To make sure you start the new year the right and healthy way, take Wahanda's advice and eat a little brekkie before you start the rush of the day. I know i've got my breakfast sorted for the week, porridge yum :)

How do you like your eggs in the morning? You don’t? We can all be guilty of skipping breakfast, even if we know it is the most important meal of the day, but new research has shown it’s even more vital than we realised.

Regularly skipping breakfast can increase the risk of heart disease, a new report has shown – backing up previous claims (and so many of those adverts) that a healthy breakfast leads to a healthy heart.

Research shows that leaving the house on an empty stomach can lead to obesity, larger fat stores around the stomach and higher cholesterol levels - which are all major risk factors for heart disease. It can also trigger higher insulin levels in the blood - a warning sign of diabetes.

The greatest risk is for those who didn’t have breakfast as children and carried on the habit to adulthood. As the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, by the time those adults who didn’t eat breakfast as children are in their twenties, they are already on the way to developing heart disease.

The theory goes that if you don’t eat breakfast, you are more likely to want to stock up on sugary snacks to get through the day. Plus, you’re even less likely to eat at typical mealtimes, as discovered by researchers at the University of Tasmania.

Snacking is not only bad for your health, but all those sugary snacks may mean you are missing out on the crucial intake of fibre, vitamins and minerals that a good morning brekkie can give you. Not eating first thing in the morning will leave you feeling tired, lacklustre and therefore less likely to want to exercise.

So if you’re rushing out of the house every morning without a bite to eat, it’s time to change your ways. Check out Wahanda’s nutritional advice for some healthy tips on what you really should be eating – and try to start your day the right way…

Like an advert out of Ikea, the perfect breakfast.

HoHoHo Merry (belated) xmas.

Hohoho Merry (belated) xmas to one and all!

Once again, I have been very busy (you must be getting bored of me saying this) but it's true.

In the world of retail, Christmas is prime time for sales. Hence I took the opportunity to work myself silly over the holidays (make money) and am pleased I have come out the other end still standing- just.

Working on fragrance, my presents mostly consisted of thus, Davidoff blue water gift set (£26 for aftershave and shower gel and aftershave balm i'll have you know), my dad received the classic CK one (on offer of course) and No.7 goodies for my Mum. Plus a spa trip to Champneys courtesy of the wonderful Wahanda. (Blog review of the trip to come!).

Sell out- No.7 gift set- (worth £90, got it for £45, plus free gift- bargaain).

I received bits and pieces, apart from a lovely carpet bag from River Island (my sister works there, discountt!) I mostly asked for money. I love clothes, so on bank holiday Monday after boxing day I found myself where else but Topshop. Rummaging in the sale I found, a gorge chunky knit cardie, super brown loafers (30 quid no joke) and a lovely gold necklace- (when asked if expensive, hmm best not to tell them it was only £6.50?!)

Followed by a pretty ballerina like skirt from Miss Selfridge I had my eye on for a while (nabbed it for £15- bargaain) and of course I took a trip to my homeland, Warehouse where I purchased a lovely camel jumper and matching vest, (not sale, just too lovely not to get) to look expensive for my first day at my NEW internship.

                                           My purchases- softly soft camel jumper, vintage loafers and gold rope necklace                

Yep, tomorrow I am off up *tawwn again, Shaftesbury Avenue to be exact. Today I have been researching train times etc and purchased my train ticket (gulp train fayre rise just isn't faair moans*) for my next adventure.

This time, another healthy excursion, but to a magazine named Top Sante. V. excited, slightly scared. Pondering what these next  three weeks will bring? Will I succeed- or flop profoundly, who knows only time will tell. (hoping for the latter...).

Health, beauty and wellness mag where i'll be tomorrow!

More Wahanda articles to follow, trip to Champneys et al and more on the internship!

Happy new year everyone- let's hear it to a fun and prosperous 2011 :) X